After Miss Julie at Bath Theatre Royal

After Miss Julie 4PATRICK Marber’s updating of Aug­ust Strind­berg’s Miss Julie sets the action in 1945, on the eve of the Labour election victory.

Miss Julie is the daughter of a Labour peer who is in London to celebrate the landslide. At home with the servants, the brittle and fragile girl starts playing a dangerous game.

In this Theatre Royal Bath production, directed by Anthony Banks and starring Call the Midwife’s Trixie, Helen George, the usually black and white characterisation is subtly modernised.

After Miss Julie1Chauffeur John is a veteran of the fighting in France and his fiancee Christine is accustomed to the nightmares disturbing his sleep. The insidious shifts of power between Miss Julie and John are here impelled by inevitability rather than intrinsic evil.

It is an interesting and satisfying reading, but one that needs yet more exploration.

After Miss Julie 3Perhaps the danger of casting someone known on popular television in one character and for a successful appearance on Strictly Come Dancing is that the audience expectations are for light entertainment. The tension of After Miss Julie does need relief, but the laughs in the Bath auditorium came in oddly unsuitable places. When John kills Serena the songbird it is NOT funny.

Helen George gives a thougthful and multi-layered performace as the troubled Miss Julie, mercurially teetering between fragile child and entitled young woman. Taking the hectoring arrogance out the the character makes it unusually vulnerable.

And Richard Flood’s John is straight out of Downton Abbey’s servants hall  until his final moving moments.

After Miss Julie 4Amy Cudden makes up the trio as the long suffering Christine, already resigned to her lot.

Perhaps this version of Marber’s brilliant reworking is less frightenting than either Strindberg’s original, or the recent London Classic Theatre tour, but by playing down the hectoring social politics, and intensifying the personal story, it throws more light on a time of puzzling social change.

After Miss Julie is at Bath until 28th May, when it goes on tour.



Photographs by Nobby Clark

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